The Other Side of the Fence

Theothersideofthefence is devoted to other ways of viewing education, life, what’s important and what’s not, depending on where you are. Although I have chosen education as a theme, I believe this encompasses a world of possibilities and therefore I don’t intend to limit entries to the “education debate.”  The choice of blog name has as much to do with my own affliction with the greener grass syndrome as it does with the notion that there are always two sides to fences. They only fence us in to the extent that we choose to follow the herd. Otherwise, fences are easy to jump with a little practice, a strong will and solid running start.

My personal experience educating my own kids might be described as experimental for lack of a better standard alternative. Of, if you have never left your country and enrolled your children in other, foreign “systems,” with a patchwork of supplemental solutions weaved in along the way, you might be tempted to call it reckless or even dangerous for their future. I, obviously, would beg to differ. Here are some basic facts behind our story:

  • My kids have been raised bilingually, English-speaking mother,  Spanish-speaking father.
  • They lived in the US until age 5, but have done all formal schooling in Spanish–first in Spain, then in Argentina.
  • They attended public school through 3rd grade in Spain, private school 4th-7th in Argentina.
  • They are fully proficient in both languages in terms of reading, writing and cultural literacy despite having never attended school in English.
  • Our decision to move to both countries was a matter of choice and not job-related.

Aside from regular school, we have entrusted a revolving door of various and sundry 20-somethings with the kids’ English, music and art education. Hailing from the US, the UK and South Africa, these carefully selected young people have proven to be an invaluable source of language, inspiration and pop culture to our kids as they’ve grown up, each one contributing his or her unique skills and strengths along the way. These have ranged from astronomy to beat-box to non-profit projects to the basics of Xhosa (the clicking language of South Africa). They have read Steinbeck and learned about the basic economics behind the Great Depression, and suffered the Jim Crowe laws of the 1930s US south through Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. They have practiced how to be persuasive in the persona of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. They have also discovered that wine comes in various shades good for painting and learned the rules of baseball, a game they have never played. I do not recall having been lucky enough to get even one teacher like these in all my years of school.